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Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Ecol. Evol. | doi: 10.3389/fevo.2019.00323

Spatial and Temporal Variability in Migration of a Soaring Raptor Across Three Continents

 W. L. Phipps1*,  Pascual López-López2,  Evan Buechley3, 4,  Steffen Oppel5, Ernesto Álvarez6, Volen Arkumarev7, Rinur Bekmansurov8,  Oded Berger-Tal9, Ana Bermejo10,  Anastasios Bounas11,  Isidoro C. Alanis12, Javier de la Puente10, Vladimir Dobrev7, Olivier Duriez13,  Ron Efrat9, Guillaume Fréchet14,  Javier G. Fernández15,  Manuel Galán6, Clara García-Ripollés16, Alberto Gil6, Juan J. Iglesias-Lebrija6, José M. Jambas17,  Igor Karyakin18, Erick Kobierzycki19, Elzbieta Kret20,  Franziska Loercher1, Antonio Monteiro21,  Jon Morant Etxebarria22, Stoyan Nikolov7,  José Pereira23, Cécile Ponchon24, Eduardo Realinho25, Victoria Saravia26, Cagan Sekercioglu27, 28, Theodora Skartsi20, José Tavares1, Joaquim Teodósio29, Vicente Urios16 and Nuria Vallverde25
  • 1Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF), Switzerland
  • 2Cavanilles Institute for Biodiversity and Evolutionary Biology, University of Valencia, Spain
  • 3Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, United States
  • 4HawkWatch International, United States
  • 5Centre for Conservation Science, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, United Kingdom
  • 6Group of Rehabilitation of the Native Fauna and its Habitat (GREFA), Spain
  • 7Bulgarian Society for Protection of Birds, Bulgaria
  • 8Elabuga Institute, Kazan Federal University, Russia
  • 9Marco and Louise Mitrani Department of Desert Ecology, National Institute for Biotechnology, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Israel
  • 10Other, Spain
  • 11Department of Biological Applications and Technologies, University of Ioannina, Greece
  • 12Independent consultant, Spain
  • 13UMR5175 Centre d'Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive (CEFE), France
  • 14Other, France
  • 15Department of Biodiversity and Environmental Management, University of León, Spain
  • 16University of Alicante, Spain
  • 17Junta de Castilla y León, Spain
  • 18Other, Russia
  • 19Other, France
  • 20WWF Greece, Greece
  • 21Instituto da Conservação da Natureza e das Florestas (ICNF), Portugal
  • 22Department of Ornithology, Aranzadi Sciences Society, Spain
  • 23Palombar - Association of Conservation of Nature and Rural Heritage, Portugal
  • 24Other, France
  • 25Other, Portugal
  • 26Other, Greece
  • 27School of Biological Sciences, University of Utah, United States
  • 28Faculty of Science, Koç University, Turkey
  • 29Sociedade Portuguesa para o Estudo das Aves (SPEA), Portugal

Disentangling individual- and population-level variation in migratory movements is necessary for understanding migration at the species level. However, very few studies have analyzed these patterns across large portions of species’ distributions. We compiled a large telemetry dataset on the globally endangered Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus (94 individuals, 188 completed migratory journeys), tracked across ~70% of the species’ global range, to analyze spatial and temporal variability of migratory movements within and among individuals and populations. We found high migratory connectivity at large spatial scales (i.e. different subpopulations showed little overlap in wintering areas), but very diffuse migratory connectivity within subpopulations, with wintering ranges up to 4000 km apart for birds breeding in the same region and each subpopulation visiting up to 28 countries (44 in total). Additionally, Egyptian Vultures exhibited a high level of variability at the subpopulation level and flexibility at the individual level in basic migration parameters. Subpopulations differed significantly in travel distance and straightness of migratory movements, while differences in migration speed and duration differed as much between seasons and among individuals within subpopulations as between subpopulations. The total distances of the migrations completed by individuals from the Balkans and Caucasus were up to twice as long and less direct than those in Western Europe, and consequently were longer in duration, despite faster migration speeds. These differences appear to be largely attributable to more numerous and wider geographic barriers (water bodies) along the eastern flyway. We also found that adult spring migrations to Western Europe and the Balkans were longer and slower than fall migrations. We encourage further research to assess the underlying mechanisms for these differences and the extent to which environmental change could affect Egyptian Vulture movement ecology and population trends.

Keywords: Migration connectivity, Neophron percnopterus, conservation biology, movement ecology, Satellite tracking, GPS, phenotypic plasticity

Received: 18 Apr 2019; Accepted: 13 Aug 2019.

Edited by:

Nathan R. Senner, University of South Carolina, United States

Reviewed by:

Tom Finch, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), United Kingdom
Wouter M. Vansteelant, Estación Biológica de Doñana (EBD), Spain  

Copyright: © 2019 Phipps, López-López, Buechley, Oppel, Álvarez, Arkumarev, Bekmansurov, Berger-Tal, Bermejo, Bounas, Alanis, de la Puente, Dobrev, Duriez, Efrat, Fréchet, Fernández, Galán, García-Ripollés, Gil, Iglesias-Lebrija, Jambas, Karyakin, Kobierzycki, Kret, Loercher, Monteiro, Morant Etxebarria, Nikolov, Pereira, Ponchon, Realinho, Saravia, Sekercioglu, Skartsi, Tavares, Teodósio, Urios and Vallverde. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. W. L. Phipps, Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF), Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland, l.phipps@4vultures.org